View Full Version : Combing out dreadlocks?

September 28th, 2008, 11:27 AM
Has any body got any experience combing out your own or a friend's dreadlocks?

A girl who works with me has a whole head of massive long dreadlocks half way down her back, that she's had for three years. At Christmas she becomes a registered nurse, and has to get rid of them. She doesn't want to cut her hair really short, but is wondering whether, if she cuts them to shoulder length, she could comb the rest out and do 500 moisture treatments?

I thought perhaps soaking them in a really slimy (eg. amla) oil over night, then having a go, very slowly and gently with a fine-ish comb?

Thanks guys!


September 28th, 2008, 11:37 AM
People have soaked them in conditioner for long periods of time to get them out.

Ask Kwaniesiam. She hd dreads and didn't cut the hair completely off after. she did lose a lot of length though.

September 28th, 2008, 11:50 AM
Yep, that I did! Thanks for the rec Glass Eyes :)

My hair was just past waist length when I put them in, and even though they only had 3 months to mature, I ended up cutting the dreadlocks themselves in half (BSL on me), and after wards had my hair cut and layered by a stylist just above my shoulders to even out everything. The process of combing out was a long and difficult one, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I had thought it was going to be. I soaked them in conditioner and with a fine tooth plastic rat tail comb (got a few at Sally's, they're $1 something each) started untangling from the bottom up. My mum helped, and it took about two days to get them all out. My hair did not feel in that bad of condition after, but ymmv depending on her hairtype and how long she has had the dreadlocks, plus if she used wax, went natural, backcombed initially, etc. At 3 years of mature locks it will be much more difficult.

In my experience, oil was more a hindrance than a help but my hair drinks up oil like made and it just made things sticky. You want something water soluble so that when you rinse the hair, it will help it come out instead of mucking everything up. What really pulled them out was a nice slimy coney conditioner, Herbal Essences moisture kind in the blue bottle worked really well, and I also used some cheap V05 and Aussie 3 Minute Miracle since thats what we had lying around at the time. Also, make sure to tell her do NOT be afraid of handfulls of hair coming out, this does not mean you are ripping hair out, its simply the shed hairs that have gotten caught in the locs that normally would have come out in the normal process of detangling and her hair is not thinning. It can be really scary, but my hair is actually much thicker now than before I did it, but I had previously had hair loss so that could also be a factor of it filling in.

Another thing that really helped was about halfway through, I soaked my entire head in diluted ACV solution to rinse out the conditioner, de-gunk my scalp, and soften up the hair. A bucket or large bowl on the bathroom floor will work, I'd say about 1 part ACV to 6 parts water is what I used. Really get down in there and scrub at your scalp and work the conditioner through and out of the remaining locks then reapply more conditioner and start over with combing them out.

Once it was all over, it only took about a week for my hair to normalize. Once again, YMMV depending on if she has chemically colored her locs, etc. SMTs really helped, but don't do too much at once. Her hair is not used to any form of conditioner at all, and at first it will seem REALLY greasy. Give it a while to adjust and normalize, especially her scalp. A good BBB really feels good, but her scalp will be tender at first. I couldn't stand brushing at first and just used a very wide tooth comb gently for the first few days.

Does she know what her hair type is? Mine is thin, straight, and fine, so I had a lot easier time than say, someone who has coarse, thick, curly hair. I won't lie, it did hurt to comb out the locks, especially at the root, but overall it wasn't that bad. HTH, and if you have any more questions feel free to PM me! :flowers:

September 28th, 2008, 11:57 AM
i imagine it would also depend on how wiry, or coarse her hair is to begin with... like it she had to do something to it to get it to dred.

my boyfriend has hair that dreds naturally, and if he wants them off, he's pretty much gonna have to shave his head :(

September 28th, 2008, 12:23 PM
Would soaking her hair overnight in the most slippery cone-laden conditioner you can think of help? Maybe a vat of spray-on detangling mist? I haven't taken out locs, but I think the general rule is that people with them need to avoid conditioner if they want to keep the hair in locs, so soaking in the stuff should help them come back out.

My sister-in-law had her hair (1c/F/ii, I think, very similar to mine, but lighter red) in locs for a while, and she did not cut it when she took them out. Her hair was a bit past BSL at the time. It did take quite a while, though. Removing locs is not an afternoon project. Your friend should probably plan on spending at least 4-6 hours a day working on them for a week.

September 28th, 2008, 12:51 PM
Cut to approximately the length desired, then get into a nice warm bath and CO the bejaysus out of those long snarls!

I imagine one would begin at the bottom of each one and work toward the scalp, just as with any other kind of tangle.

September 28th, 2008, 01:09 PM
Thanks guys, your answer was particularly fantastic kwaniesiam (http://forums.longhaircommunity.com/member.php?u=7921)

I'm pretty sure her hair is naturally really curly and flyaway, and quite thick.

So, no oil it seems...just a really slimy conditioner. How much do you think she'd go through? Because the best i can think of is Redken Heavy Cream...I've never had anything that smooths and detangles better, but it's $32 per pot :S maybe better as a treatment for the weeks after?

September 28th, 2008, 07:33 PM
I would personally recommend Herbal Essences moisture conditioner, in the blue bottles. You can get the family sized bottle for around $4-7 at Target, Wal*Mart, various pharmacies, etc.

September 28th, 2008, 07:37 PM
My brother had dreads for a while and got his out with conditioner and combing.

September 28th, 2008, 07:53 PM
You could try L'Oreal Mega Moisture. $12.99 at Sally's for 16oz tub. I swear this is like the slipperiest stuff on earth. I'd thin it with water to a 50/50 mix and work that into the hair for detangling.

September 28th, 2008, 08:31 PM
3MinuteMiracle also comes (or came - haven't been there in a while) in a generic form at Sally's in a larger bottle for cheap. That's really good stuff.

I'd also have to agree with the CO idea, too - get at least one good CO in there first and then let the dreads soak with the slimy condish for a few hours while they are worked out. She shouldn't have to cut any unless she really wants to or there is excessive damage.

September 29th, 2008, 05:17 PM
I had dreads in part of my hair for three years. My hair is straight, but I backcombed to start (massive snarl).
I used condish, more condish and even more condish over two weeks to eradicate them.
after combing out, which hurt beyond reason, and was frustrating, I had a brillo-pad like pouf on my head..in that one sixth section of my hair by my ear.
Ultimately, I cut a layer in to even out the damage that had to go.

How long until she has to be dread free? She can comb at the top to keep new growth from locking, then trim to the new hair.

Also, has she secured the job and they say to be rid of them? Can't she get specialzed tams or soem sort?
I have know several black nurses of both genders who work with dreads.

September 29th, 2008, 06:12 PM
I've never had dreds....BUT when I used to perm my hair, I couldn't comb it with any detangling spray or conditioner other than biosilk silk therapy......you can get the generic kind at Sally's now.....it is almost pure cones, and is great for really MEAN tangles......

September 29th, 2008, 07:10 PM
In my area we have a lot of people who dread and then undread after several years. Though I have never had them myself, it seems the product of choice to remove them is baby oil, or straight mineral oil from the pharmacy.

I've watched this done, and yes its messy, but yes it also works extremely well. The hair doesn't absorb mineral oil, so it simply works to lubricate and make it easier to undread the locs.

The only drawback I've heard of is smelling like baby oil for a month, and looking greasy/slicked back for a week or more until shampoo finally gets it out.

September 29th, 2008, 08:55 PM
I have a little experience. A dread is basically really matted hair. Undoing a dread lock without cutting it is a careful process. You start at the end of the dread, using the end of a rat tail comb or the first tooth of a regular comb. Then you start undoing the dread from the end and working your way up. You can spray some conditioner water on the dread to soften in and make detangling easier, but it will still take a while and can be a slightly painful process if the person has a sensitive scalp.

September 30th, 2008, 06:20 AM
I'd also have to agree with the CO idea, too - get at least one good CO in there first and then let the dreads soak with the slimy condish for a few hours while they are worked out. She shouldn't have to cut any unless she really wants to or there is excessive damage.

I'm so ignorant - what is CO? Sorry lol

October 6th, 2008, 07:16 PM
Conditioner Only (CO) washing is a hair-cleansing method that uses conditioner instead of shampoo. Typically, a light, no-cone conditioner is used. In your friend's case, though, you should get something coney with lots of slip. You're looking for sliming, not cleansing.

There's an article on one method of CO here (http://forums.longhaircommunity.com/vbjournal.php?do=article&articleid=70).

October 6th, 2008, 07:22 PM
I had a class in college with a girl who had dreads then combed them out. She had long hair, maybe waist lenght if I remember right. She just sat down one day with a wide tooth comb and went to work on it, she didn't loss any lenght at all, and surprisingly her hair didn't seem to damaged by the event.

October 6th, 2008, 07:35 PM
Good Luck regardless! I have hair underneath (the whole reason i shaved it in the back) that dreads up on its own if I don't comb it at least every other day! I have had to have friends help me get my 'oops dreads' out after being sick and not worrying about my hair. :x

October 7th, 2008, 01:27 AM
it IS possible!!! A friend of mine had dreads at the midle of her back for about 2 or 3 years and she was able to take them all of without cuting anything!!! Her hair seams to be a fine to medium hair and very wavy. she ended with fairytale kind of hair as the hair breaks BUT i really think it was beautiful and still long! I think she would try first not cuting that much :) if she starts from the ends she can then see if it is possible or not... THEN give small cuts to see where she can manage. I would really recomend a conditioner WITH CONES, i personally think that the mask from Redken "ALL SOFT" is the best thing ever to give the hair a lot of softness and untangle. It is expensive but in this case i would give it a try.

October 7th, 2008, 05:40 AM
so it is possible to do it.....I was thinkin about gettin dreadlocks but I wasn't sure if they could ever be unlocked or not

October 12th, 2008, 01:50 PM
I just did this last week. I had dreads that were about 1.5 years old, and very developed. Not just developed, but I used a felting needle a lot and my brother spent many days using a crochet needle to get them nice and tight.

I cut the bottom couple of inches off and me and my husband spent a week soaking dreads in conditioner and picking them out with forks and flea combs. I stabbed myself in the fingers and thumb so many times they were raw, yikes!

I used generic Nexxus, generic Redken Extreme, and Ionic condioner from Sally's. I don't necessarily recommend these; I KNOW there has to be something more slippery. They worked well enough, though. I just didn't take time to research it much, I was ready for them to be out.

I cut them off to just on top of the shoulder, but after they combed out some of my hair was down to my sternum and lower. I can't believe how much my hair grew while in dreads! I now have hair that is collar bone length, and it's thinner at the ends than the roots, but I started out with very thick hair, so my hair mostly looks other women's hair. It really doesn't look very damaged or anything. I may get more cut off the ends, to just above shoulder length as I liked that length on myself before. I'm just waiting to see how it recovers from the dreading and then the removing process.

It's funny that the ladies at Sally's kept telling me that it can't be done, that you HAVE to cut dreadlocks out. I kept saying..."I've seen it done, I'm doing it right now, they're combing out as I'm talking to you on the phone..." I keep wanting to go back and show them. :D

October 12th, 2008, 02:02 PM
I see from your info that you are in Australia - a lot of the product recommendations you're getting are from people in the US, and what you have available may be different.

On the old version of the boards, there use to be a products thread specifically about Australia, I think. (I may be misremembering.) I don't know, offhand, if there is such a thread here.

But you may want to do a request on such a thread, or set up such a thread if it does not exist, to get recommendations that are actually available where you are.

It may also help to start the process by washing with a clarifying shampoo, just to get out any product buildup, waxes or oils, and other things that may be serving as "glue" in the locks. Rinse very well, and perhaps mermaid-soak in clean water, to get the hair down to nothing but hair, before loading up with the most slipy, cone-filled conditioner you can find.

It may also be necessary to wash/clarify partway through the process, if the conditioner dries into the hair. A spray bottle of water, to re-moisten the conditioner as it drys, may be helpful, in order to keep it damp as you work. Conditioner can sometimes dry sticky, and that would only make the process more difficult.

October 12th, 2008, 02:02 PM
happyvegan eheh i believe there are people that for some reason cant take the dreadlocks so you are somehow lucky to save your hair! You should show us your new hairstyle ;)

October 12th, 2008, 03:23 PM
happyvegan eheh i believe there are people that for some reason cant take the dreadlocks so you are somehow lucky to save your hair! You should show us your new hairstyle ;)

When I get an actual hairstyle I will! I confess I thought my hair would be in a lot worse shape after, especially after using the felting needle! I'll be babying my hair for quite a while. My brother, who also had dreadlocks, just cut his off and was done with it. I envied him being able to do that, but I wanted to keep my hair long if I could...

I had waist length hair in high school and then chopped it off the day after senior pics. Since then it's been up to my neckline and down to BSL. I was in the process of growing it out when I dreadlocked it, and I enjoyed having the locks, although I can't help but wonder where my hair would be if I hadn't done it.

Right now, for rebuilding I'm doing the K-pak treatment once a week, and no shampoo, only Aubrey Organics honeysuckle rose conditioner (for dry/brittle hair) and water. I figure after using no conditioner and only drying shampoos for so long, my hair needs some TLC.

We shall see how that turns out, but I have to say it was SO WORTH the pain and frustration and all the time spent combing/picking my dreads out. I'm so glad I didn't just chop it, even though I'd get so fed up with stabbing my fingertips that I really thought about chopping. :D

October 12th, 2008, 03:25 PM
It may also be necessary to wash/clarify partway through the process, if the conditioner dries into the hair. A spray bottle of water, to re-moisten the conditioner as it drys, may be helpful, in order to keep it damp as you work. Conditioner can sometimes dry sticky, and that would only make the process more difficult.

Yes to this! The Ion conditioner I used dried very sticky, and I kept a glass of water nearby to dunk my dread in as it got dry. A spray bottle would've been super helpful!